Boatman's dream 29
By Parson Thru
The road leading to Whenmoor Manor Farm ran dead-straight across the reclaimed salt-marsh. The farm was clearly visible from the road. Bellingham-Smythe turned into its tree-lined drive and maintained a respectful speed, passing a huddle of farm buildings to reach the broad courtyard fronting the house.
A tall middle-aged man wearing a tweed suit and brogues stood on the steps of the front door. A Retriever sat obediently at his side. Several other cars were parked in the courtyard. The man indicated to a space in the corner.
Bellingham-Smythe pulled into the space, applied the brake, and switched the engine off.
“So this is how the other half live.” he said quietly to himself.
He stepped out of the car and switched-into character.
The tall man was walking towards him with the dog close at his side.
“You found us then?”
“Yes, thank you. It’s fairly easy these days with GPS.”
They clasped hands, introducing themselves. Bellingham-Smythe had the feeling they’d met before.
“Do you sail?” he asked.
“No. I’m afraid not. Not my thing at all. One of my daughters almost made the Laser dinghy squad for the Olympics. She’s very keen. They had an excellent school team.”
“Really? I should know her name, through the RYA.”
Lord Bowall smiled his natural smile. “You can’t know everyone, James.”
He avoided calling Lord Bowall by his name. The whole protocol thing was beyond him.
“Would you like to take a turn?”
Bellingham-Smythe stared back at him vacantly.
“A walk around the park.”
“Ah! Yes. Of course. Love to.”
“There are boots in the barn. What size are you?”
“Ok. Let’s get you fixed-up.”
They entered a low stone building and Lord Bowall pulled two pairs of Hunter Wellingtons down from a shelf.
“So you’ve moved down from Essex?”
“Surrey, actually. I’m from Essex originally, but we moved to here from West Byfleet.”
“That’s a nice part of the world. Whatever brings you to Weston?”
He called the dog to follow.
“We’ll make a short circuit around the main farm. A bit quiet at this time of year, but it makes a nice stroll.”
He held the field-gate open for Bellingham-Smythe. Jack was already through.
“So you’re the Chair of the Boating Club? I’ve seen your other developments, too, on the sea-front in Weston. Very successful for the town and, not a little, for you.”
“Property development can be risky.”
“Gerald. It’ll be easier if you just call me Gerald.”
Bellingham-Smythe’s awkwardness hadn’t gone unnoticed. For Lord Bowall, putting new faces at ease was an everyday formality.
“Investment is always a risk, James.”
“Yes. But at least Weston is one of those places whose time seems to have come. My investment is on the back of major commitments by central and local government in the town. A genuine partnership, really.”
“And it’s working?”
“Seems to be.”
They made their way across a plank that had been placed over a stream.
The streams are part of an elaborate system of drainage, like blood vessels keeping the reclaimed agricultural land alive and cultivated. It’s home to some of the richest grazing in the country.
Jack went first. Lord Bowall stepped briskly after. They stood and waited as Bellingham-Smythe moved carefully along the mud-layered plank.
“And you plan to expand down onto the wharf?”
“Well, it’s a part of a bigger project, really. I want to open the Boating Club up and bring in more revenue. More money for the town. The whole thing aligns with what we’ve just been saying. I want to leverage the public investment and provide the kind of amenity that visitors want when they come.”
Lord Bowall rested his hand on Bellingham-Smythe’s shoulder.
“See that? On the hedge over there?”
He followed where Lord Bowall was pointing.
“Buzzard. Magnificent bird. It’ll be off when we move into the field. Get a good look now.”
The buzzard sensed them and flew low over the field into a wood.